What Does “Post 9/11 World” Really Mean?July 27, 2007
This is one of those posts that I put out there in the spirit of opening a discussion, rather than hoping to make a specific point. Or, maybe I do have a point. You decide.
For the longest time, I thought that just using the phrase “post-9/11 world” was an exercise in giving the terrorist perpetrators too much credit. After all, why give them the satisfaction of giving them a “world” that they “created”? Why should we allow the extreme actions of 19 people effect us so?
What really changed, anyway? Now we know that we need to lock the cockpit doors of airliners, and that we should check carry-on items for knives. That, and we should be wary of people who take flying lessons but aren’t interested in learning how to land the plane. But beyond that? Intelligence agencies already knew about al Qaeda and terrorism. How has the world really changed?
This is the part where my statements may begin to be unpopular…
The September 11th attacks, as terrible as they were, were not catastrophic to the country as a whole. Al Qaeda managed to kill roughly 3,000 people, take out 4 commercial airplanes and destroy two of the world’s tallest buildings. It was horrifying to watch, and for those directly affected by the tragedy, it is doubtful that their lives will ever be the same. However, on a scale of the conceivable attacks that the modern world might allow, the actual devastation would appear to be relatively minor. Terror attacks happen every day. Some may kill a hundred or so people, while others, like the incident in Glasgow, kill no one (although they still register a fear effect). But considering the devastation that WMD’s (especially nuclear weapons) would create, I think it’s important to keep things in a sort of cold-hearted perspective.
On this scale, where would one put the 9/11 attacks? My guess is it would certainly be closer to Glasgow than Jericho. A lot closer. The Jericho scenario would have an effect on Americans that would be quite tangible. Even if you weren’t killed in the attack itself, the effect on your life would undoubtedly be significant. It’s a scenario that would effectively reduce America to a 3rd world country. In fact, the only Americans that wouldn’t be tangibly effected by this kind of an attack would be the Amish (although that is even debatable). In contrast, the effect of 9/11 was more in the collective mindset of Americans than anything else. Wall Street took a short timeout, as did air traffic. For the vast majority of Americans, however, life went on as usual after about a week. We went shopping, played baseball, and watched TV just as we did on 9/10. It’s a stretch, but if you pretend that the actual devastation of 9/11 was the result of a freak accident, it would have been a relatively small blip on the screen of history.
While it is clear that a “post-Jericho” world would be a very different world, what does a “post-9/11” world really mean? I don’t want to downplay 9/11, but considering the possibilities that are out there that could really change our world, perhaps we are giving the phrase too much weight. In reality, we may be giving al Qaeda what they wanted as well.
BTW- In case you’re curious as to what inspired this post, I’d have to say that it was the literally the back of a DVD jewel case (the Running Man DVD contains a special feature entitled “Lockdown on Main Street” – Documentary about the current state of privacy and criminal issues in a post 9/11 society). What can I say? It got me thinking. I’m weird that way.
And an important exit question: What does George Bush really mean when he refers to “the lessons of 9/11”? Is it merely an exploitation of the fear associated with the tragedy?
Also, for a little background see: My Thoughts On 9/11 And Iraq